When we think about a workout, many words come to mind. Tired, sweaty, breathing heavy, results, when will this end??? So many of us are surprised, and maybe a tad bit disappointed then, to show up to a “workout” and see a strength day programmed. Something along the lines of 5×5 back squats or 5×3 shoulder presses. After all, if I’m not flat on my back gasping for air when it’s all done, what’s the real value?
The fact is, strength days are very necessary to well-rounded CrossFit programming. If taken seriously, these days should not only have you thinking those “workout words” from above, but they will help to reach your goals. Weight loss? Muscle gain? Heart health? Bone and joint health and longevity? Keeping up with your kids/grandkids? Strength days got you covered!
The one last component to reaping the benefits of strength days? TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY! If you are not focusing on proper form, you’re not taking them seriously. If you are done in 10 minutes because you didn’t need to rest between sets, you’re not taking them seriously.
So now that we understand their value and we’re taking them seriously, we want to help you understand what those numbers up on the whiteboard mean.
The following workouts are not the same:
5 Rep Max Press (may be written as 5 RMP or 5 RM)
5×5 Press Across
5×5 Press Building (or written 5-5-5-5-5)
I repeat, these are not the same workouts.
Let’s start with the first one. 5 rep max. Means just that- the heaviest weight you can do for 5 reps. Warm up and keep adding weight until you reach this threshold.
Not every day is max-out day, which brings us to 5×5 Across vs. 5×5 Building…enter confusion and miss-execution of what is intended for the workout.
There are two other terms to introduce at this point: warm-up weight and working weight.
Warm-up weight is the weight you put on the bar to warm up your range of motion and muscles so you can perform your best lifts and thus reap the most benefit. Working weight is the weight at which you will perform the sets of 5 in our example above.
So now back to Across vs. Building.
5×5 Across Definition: 5 sets of 5 reps at the same weight for all 5 sets, performing a total of 25 reps. The weight does not change for these sets. You take time to warm up, and then find a weight that you can be challenged with to complete the workout. That means you will surely be performing MORE than 5 sets when all is said and done.
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE: Jane warms up her press with 35 lbs., 55 lbs., and 75 lbs. She has not started her working weight yet, so these 3 sets do NOT count towards her 5 sets of 5 reps. Jane decides on 85 lbs. for her press working weight. She will approach the bar, press 85 lbs over her head 5 times, re-rack the bar and then rest accordingly. She will repeat this 5 times total with 85 lbs on the bar.
5×5 Building Definition: 5 sets of 5 reps, increasing in weight for all 5 sets, performing a total of 25 reps. The weight CHANGES for these sets. You still warm up and then find a weight to start with. You will keep adding to so that you can be challenged and complete the workout. The final 5 reps should be the heaviest you can handle that day. On many occasions I see athletes failing (not completing 5 reps) on their 3rd, 4th, and 5th sets because they started too heavy or jumped too much- missing out on valuable reps.
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE: Sarah warms up her press with 35 lbs. and then 55 lbs. She has not started her working weight yet, so these 2 sets DO NOT count towards her 5 sets of 5 reps. Jane decides on 75 lbs. for her first press working weight. She will approach the bar, press 75 lbs. over her head 5 times, re-rack the bar and then rest. After she has rested, she will then add weight to the bar (she decides on 85 lbs. for her 2nd set), press that 5 times and re-rack. She will repeat adding weight to the bar, lifting, and resting until she has completed 5 sets. Sarah completed her 5 sets at 75, 85, 90, 95, and 100 lbs.
Hopefully these definitions and examples help you feel more comfortable approaching strength days, and therefore help you get more from them. Because no doubt, they have a lot to offer YOU! Stay strong my friends!